Vietnamese provincial officials punished for drunken karaoke brawl

By Hoang Tuan, Thanh Nien News

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Bui Quoc Khanh (R), deputy director of the Binh Phuoc Province Department of External Affairs, and Pham Thanh Chung, deputy director of the provincial Department of Interior, apologized to each other on August 20. Photo credit: Phap Luat TPHCM Bui Quoc Khanh (R), deputy director of the Binh Phuoc Province Department of External Affairs, and Pham Thanh Chung, deputy director of the provincial Department of Interior, apologized to each other on August 20. Photo credit: Phap Luat TPHCM

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The Communist Party unit of the southern Binh Phuoc Province has issued warnings and reprimands to two senior local officials who engaged in a drunken karaoke brawl that sent one to the hospital this summer. 
Bui Quoc Khanh, 40, deputy director of the Department of External Affairs, was given a warning and Pham Thanh Chung, 52, deputy director of the Department of Interior, was reprimanded for his act. 
In Vietnam, there are four levels of punishment for misconduct by official members of the Communist Party: reprimands, warnings, demotions and expulsion. 
Investigators say the two men headed to the Bong Trang Restaurant in Dong Xoai Town with a group of their colleagues at around 2 pm on August 12 after finishing a political training session in the morning.
The group of officials ate, drank and sang karaoke songs.
Khanh reportedly went around to invite other officials to clink glasses with him, but forgot Chung, who reportedly said something to criticize Khanh.
Things quickly unraveled.
According to eyewitness accounts, Khanh threw beer into Chung’s face and repeatedly hit him over the head with his empty glass.
Chung was rushed out of the karaoke room bleeding profusely from his head and face, while Khanh continued to scream at him.
Chung was admitted to hospital and given several stitches.
News of the brawl traveled by word of mouth, but it was not until August 20 that the provincial People’s Committee, the local government, called a meeting to demand that the two officials account for their actions.
During the meeting, the officials apologized to each other and said they were under the influence of alcohol at the time. 
The pair was then suspended for a month, pending the results of an official investigation into the incident.

In January 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked all the 63 provinces in the country to enforce the ban on public officials drinking during working hours. Phuc had ordered a similar ban in March 2012, but it was not heeded, apparently.

A number of laws and regulations Vietnam has passed have not been strictly enforced because they lacked the implementation guidelines and personnel needed, officials say.

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